Do you enjoy solving problems and puzzles? Are you interested in knowing what makes things work? Do you have an inquisitive mind? Are you a team player? If your answer is yes to most of these questions, why not reach for the sky and plan a career in aerospace! A high-tech and fast-changing branch of engineering, aerospace is regarded as one of the toughest fields in the world that offers not only a huge scope for innovation and development but also opportunities for high job satisfaction and excellent compensation.
Aerospace engineering deals with the design, construction, development, testing and manufacture of aircrafts, spacecrafts, missiles, military planes, space shuttles, satellites and hovercrafts—in other words, vehicles/systems that are meant for atmospheric and space environments. Aerospace engineers work within a team of other engineers to develop new technologies for use in aviation, defence systems and space exploration, often specialising in such areas as structural design, guidance, navigation and control, instrumentation and communication, or production methods. Those who work with aircrafts are called aeronautical engineers, while aerospace engineers working with the craft that operates outside of the earth’s atmosphere are known as astronautical engineers.
Let’s delve a little deeper into what a career in aerospace and aeronautics could mean for you and what kind of growth in remuneration as well as roles and responsibilities you can expect from this field.
“Aerospace engineering is a growing field and the current trend indicates that it is bound to grow very rapidly in the coming days. There is a huge scope of innovation and development in this field. The growth prospects appear to be quite high,” opines K.P. Sinhamahapatra, professor and head of aerospace engineering department at IIT Kharagpur.
The US continues to lead the world aerospace market, with its most profitable sector being manufacturing. According to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the number of production job opportunities in the manufacturing sector there has increased significantly last year and will continue to do so in years to come.
“Though aerospace is one of the highest paying fields in the US currently, in India, this field is emerging slowly,” Sinhamahapatra adds.
Dr P. Sriram, professor and head, department of aerospace engineering, IIT Madras, shares, “With the overall growth in the economy, air travel is experiencing a boom and this will be fed by more aviation infrastructure including airports, aircraft and other related items. Aircraft fleet planning and maintenance will also become a major business. Aeronautical engineers will find jobs in all these sectors.”
To give a very specific example, China has witnessed tremendous economic growth and the aviation industry is booming there; we can expect a parallel growth in India also. There is now made-in-China Airbus A320 airplane, which is being used by Chinese airlines. Estimates are that China will be buying about 150 aircrafts a year for the next 20 years or so. The global production of aircrafts in this class is 700-800 per year, so this 150 represents a significant global market. We can expect a somewhat similar development in India over the next 10-20 years.
The present offset business (when any Indian airline buys an aircraft from Boeing, Airbus etc, the aircraft vendor is required to outsource some fraction of the purchase value from India) is expected to grow and smoothly merge into an Airbus China type activity. With more planes in the sky, more operations and maintenance will be required. So these areas will also grow and become major employers.
However, most of the aerospace-related companies and research organisations are still in the public sector.
How to get started?
For a career in aerospace engineering/aeronautics, one requires four to seven years of college study following high school. To enter this field, the minimum requirement is a four-year bachelor’s degree.
“BE/B.Tech, ME/M.Tech, MS and PhD programmes are available at about 75 institutions across the country—almost all in the private sector, with only about half a dozen in the government sector,” says Prof. Sriram.
Amongst Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the four at Madras, Mumbai, Kanpur and Kharagpur offer courses in aerospace engineering. The Department of Aerospace Engineering at each of these IITs offers four-year B.Tech, five-year dual degree (B.Tech and M.Tech), two-year M.Tech, MS and PhD degrees.